Revolution Lullabye

January 4, 2013

Adler-Kassner, The Companies We Keep

Adler-Kassner, Linda. “The Companies We Keep or The Companies We Would Like to Keep: Strategies and Tactics in Challenging Times.” WPA 36.1 (Fall/Winter 2012): 119-140.

In this article, based off of the author’s 2012 CWPA conference keynote address, Adler-Kassner calls on WPAs and writing studies scholars to be more proactive in the national conversations about what “college preparation” means (specifically what it means in terms of writing) and how that can and should be assessed.  WPAs need to articulate what it is that writing studies does (why the content of writing studies matters) and offer curricular and assessment strategies based on those basic writing studies principles.

Adler-Kassner points out that the conversations are already happening, and she describes five corporate organizations who are central in the drafting of education legislation and the construction and assessment of the Common Core State Standards.  These organizations are more powerful politically and financially than NCTE, MLA, and CWPA.  However, Adler-Kassner contends that this fact is not a reason why WPAs should give up. Rather, this is the time – while the Common Core is in its initial implementation – that WPAs need to work with K-12 educators to take ownership of writing curriculum and assessment.

Adler-Kassner points to the specific outcomes outlined by the DQP (the Degree Qualification Profile, developed by Lumina) to show that writing is cast as merely a skill – students are asked to produce forms of writing.  If writing is only seen as a tool, Adler-Kassner argues, then the discipline of writing studies is erased.  Adler-Kassner argues that WPAs need to emphasize the disciplinarity of writing studies in all writing classes, especially first-year writing classes, teaching students and other stakeholders the value of the central inquiries of the field.

Notable Notes

5 organizations that Adler-Kassner describes:

  • ALEC (American Legislative Executive Council)
  • VSA (Voluntary System of Accountability)
  • Lumina Foundation
  • DQP (Degree Qualification Profile)
  • Common Core State Standards

shift in the purpose of education to “college and career readiness,” a readiness achieved through emphasis of liberal-arts like skills (writing, communication, critical thinking.)  The ultimate purpose of 21st century education, as seen through these national discussions, is economic competition for employment (127-128).  Uses David Larabee’s analyses of public and higher education.

Her major three suggestions:

  1. “no vampires” – make writing courses focused on writing
  2. define what we think is college readiness (through documents like the Framework)
  3. build alliances with K-12 educators, even if we’re not thrilled with the standards they now must work with.

Quotable Quotes

Definition of writing studies:  “Writing Studies focuses on three things: 1. The roles that writers and writing perform in particular contexts; 2. The values reflected in writing and in those roles, and 3. The implications extending from relationships between roles, writing, and values” (131).

“This is because from a content-vacant, skills-oriented perspective, our discipline of Writing Studies is erased. Until we develop and act from principles about the meaning of what composition and writing studies is as a discipline, and then link what happens in composition courses – which exist within our discipline – to those principles, we are at the mercy of the companies seeking to keep our company. And to me, that’s a problem” (130).

“No vampires policy” – “Writing classes, especially first year classes, must absolutely and always be grounded in Writing Studies, must always be about the study of writing” (132).

“The key is to frame the study of writing wtihin the larger principle: that writing classes focus on the study of writing within particular contexts, the values reflected in that writing, and the implications of relationships between writing and values. Not vampires” (134).

“We must build alliances with colleagues who are immersed in efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards in Writing, especially K-12 colleagues, no matter how problematic we find those standards to be” (135). – if we don’t, there’s no chance of our voice being heard.  That’s the price we pay.

“I’ll begin, then, by updating the narrative that I’ve contended extends from documents like the Spellings Report. This narrative says that the purpose of postsecondary education is to prepare students for participation in the 21st century economy, but that faculty aren’t doing a good job with this preparation because we don’t understand what’s necessary for success.

“As I’ve said, answers to two key questions – what is meant by ‘preparation?’ And how should ‘how well’ be indicated? – are critical, because the responses provided to these questiosn will shape curriculum (and assessments)” (120).

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August 1, 2012

Yagelski, “Writing as Praxis”

Yagelski, Robert P. “Writing as Praxis.” English Education 44.2 (January 2012): 188-202.

Yagelski argues for a more humanistic approach to teaching writing, one that emphasizes praxis. The goal of writing education, Yagelski claims, is to introduce students to the transformational experience of writing, giving them assignments that encourage them to use the act of writing as a way to understand themselves and their world more deeply and to live more humanely. The text is not the goal of the act of writing, Yagelski argues: it is sometimes useful and communicates well, but it is the thinking that happens in the very act of writing that matters the most.

Yagelski draws on Freire, Elbow, Emig and others to construct his argument for writing as an ontological act (as a way of being in the world.) He contends that the recent Common Core Standards, and more specifically, the move away from personal writing and narration towards technical form and objective argument shortchanges students because it doesn’t introduce them to how writing can help them live their lives. He points to how people turn to writing to make sense of life, and shows how this kind of writing matters. Students, he argues, do not invest themselves in meaningless writing assignments: the act of writing in these becomes formulaic, a procedure to be followed.

Yagelski questions the assumptions behind the Common Core Standards and standards-driven schooling, aruguing that a primary goal of education is to create a more humane society through asking students to deeply understand their complex selves and complex world. The act of writing encourages slow, deep, and reflective thinking as it shuttles the writer through the past, present, and future. He gives examples of assignments that encourage students to think of writing as praxis – to value the experience as much as the product.

Notable Notes

Yagelski places primary importance on praxis, the writer, the self, the individual writer discovering truth about herself and her world through world. He de-emphasizes the communicative nature of rhetoric – the idea that rhetoric acts within a community.

those who teach teachers – emphasizing the praxis of writing matters because how you teach teachers affects how they teach their students. Ripple effect (202).

Quotable Quotes

“Powerful experiences like Katie’s or Alicia’s students’ are dismissed as somehow tangential or even irrelevant to the real work of schooling – as if schooling should not be about living life, confronting the complexity of life, understanding our experiences in the world, being human.” 201

“Writing should be about seeking happiness. It should be about well-being. It should be a practice of living, a part of what Freire (1994) called the struggle to improve human life. And it can be such a practice – it can be a praxis – if we value the experience of writing as much as we value the text.” 199

“Ask students to write meaningless texts, and writing will be meaningless for them. But let the write in ways that matter to them, and they will embrace the opportunity; they will take advantage of the capacity of writing to help them make sense of their lives.” 195

“When we write, no matter what we are writing about, we call on the past and anticipate the future even as we inhabit the present” 192

“But writing is more than communication. It is a vehicle for sustained inquiry into our experiences, a means of understanding who we are. Ultimately, writing is a deeply human act that can help us better understand what it means to be human” 193

“I am proposing that we understand writing ontologically, as a way of being in the world, as an act of living. IN this regard, the purpose of writing is simply to live more fully. And that can be a step toward living together more peacefully, more humanely.” 190

 

December 31, 2011

Aslup, Janet, et al., “Seeking Connections, Articulating Commonalities”

Aslup, Janet, Elizabeth Brockman, Jonathan Bush, and Mark Letcher. “Seeking Connections, Articulating Commonalities: English Education, Composition Studies, and Writing Teacher Education.” CCC 62:4 (June 2011) 668-686.

In the Special Symposium on the NCTE/CCCC Relationship

The authors explain how the SIG on Composition-English Education Connections has helped define a forum for groups of people interested in the training and support of writing teachers who normally would not cross paths, either identifying with NCTE or CCCC. This article explains the history of the SIG’s creation (first meeting in 2001), the effects the work of the SIG have had on scholarship and curriculum, and argues that the work of the SIG can form a launching point for future NCTE/CCCC collaborations that focus on the critical examination and research of pedagogy.

The authors note three themes emerging from the work of the SIG: 1. the development of a writing teacher identity that moves “across the borders” of NCTE and CCCC (674); 2. practical teaching and mentoring suggestions; and 3. innovation and growth in scholarship (connections with technology, writing centers, collaborations.) They also point out that the informal dialogue that happens at the SIG is crucial – the SIG gives those who practice writing teacher education the time and space to talk and come up with ideas (677).

Notes

The co-authors are former and current Composition-English Education Connections CCCC SIG leaders, whose members include WPAs, writing center coordinators, writing faculty, writing methods faculty, fieldwork supervisors, and National Writing Project directors (668)

topics discussed in early SIG meetings: Portfolio assessment, writing teacher identity, National Writing Project, literature/writing divide in teacher education

lists sample presentations given at the SIG meeting – other than those presentations, though, the meetings are informal, dialogic

Robert Tremmel and William Broz’s Teaching Writing Teachers of High School English and First-Year Composition as a foundational text

Good timing for the SIG: the journal Pedagogy  in comp/rhet signals the field’s interest in pedagogical issues, Common Core State Standards and push for college-readiness curriculum, WPA’s Framework for Success, NCTE and CCCC statements on the teaching of writing and 21st century literacies (678-679)

Quotes

Books/articles/scholarship alone cannot help writing teacher educators grow and develop: “Individuals must be prompted to come together, to convene at a time and place conducive to critical discussion and the sharing of ideas.” (677)

“These questions and the kinds fo answers that SIG presentations provide are inherently linked to larger research and policy efforts, and they are far more complex and central to the field than simply ‘what works’ in the classroom. The position and policy statements of NCTE and CCCC are the foundation for strategic initiatives, professional development, publishing, and professional conferences and hence influence the teaching and learning of English language arts around the United States” (679).

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